I got up this morning at 5:45 without much enthusiasm. It was eight degrees with a steady ten-mile-an-hour wind and some nasty gusts. I do most of my race preparation the night before, but I still had to shower, eat, and stretch before my ride picked me up at 6:45. I've been nervous about the state of my calves and hamstrings: they get uncomfortably tight on longer runs in the frigid cold, so I spent a few extra minutes on the floor this morning with the foam roller to try to convince myself it would all be fine. My only unusual concession to the extreme weather was some Dermatone skin protectant I used to grease up my face. I think it helped prevent the sweat icicles from sticking.
The course was beautifully prepared given how cold, icy, and snowy it has been, but there were some slick patches to be careful of. The worst areas were the ice sheets that formed near the Gatorade and water tables. They were pretty treacherous by the end of the race, although I did see volunteers throwing down salt and sand. As for those volunteers who arrived at 3:30 this morning, they truly deserve extra praise; maybe they should get their +1 credit for 2012 as well.
The race corrals were civilized enough this morning although there were certainly folks jumping gates to move forward. I understand the impulse given the slow traffic at the start of the race, but I think there should be a little more effort placed on enforcement (a tough assignment for volunteers, I realize). As it was, the first few miles felt trying to move through out-of-town shoppers on a particularly crowded weekend day near Rockefeller Center.
The race started on West Drive near 63rd Street. We completed two full counterclockwise loops of the park for twelve miles and came around the south end of the park for the final 1.1 before finishing near the bandshell on the eastern side of the 72nd Street Transverse.
With the crowd to negotiate at the start, it wasn't until mile two that I had to consider how fast I was going to try to run. I still wasn't sure how my muscles would react to the extreme cold, but I settled on a mildly ambitious (but not too agressive) pace-goal of 7:20. My hamstrings were feeling tight but stable as I climbed the northern hills in the park and I was pretty sure if I didn't do anything crazy I'd be fine out there. The real-time pacing on the Garmin is pretty inexact, but I remained relatively close to my goal as I chipped away at the miles. At mile nine I was pretty sure I had enough energy to cut my moving pace to under seven for the last four miles, but I held out until the end to ensure I could finish strong and without a limp. Thought it was satisfying to pass several runners in the last hundred yards, I realize should have left more out there this morning than I did.
I can't complain about 1:35. I'm pretty pleased that I felt strong at the finish and am uninjured. I'm confident that I can put in a sub-1:30 half sometime this year on the right course and the right day.